According to Google Analytics data, over half of the visitors will leave a website if it takes over 3 seconds to load.
It's important for search engine optimization too - Google uses website load time as a factor for your rankings on search results.
So - the best time to speed up your WordPress site was yesterday. The second best time is now.
And in this guide, I'll give you plenty of tips on how to turn your regular website into a speedy beast. Here is how to speed up any WordPress site:
- Enable browser caching
- Remove unnecessary plugins
- Edit your images
- Limit social sharing buttons on your website
- Use a content delivery network (CDN)
- Keep everything up-to-date
Step 1: Enable browser caching
By enabling it, your database doesn’t have to retrieve each individual piece of content every time someone visits your site. As a result, it speeds up your website, offering users a better experience while on it.
The easiest way to enable caching on a WordPress website is with the W3 Total Cache plugin. You can set this up by navigating to “Plugins” on your dashboard and clicking on “Add New”.
Then, type “W3 Total Cache” into your search box and click “Install Now”.
Once the installation is complete, click on “Activate”. Then, go to “Installed Plugins” on your dashboard.
There, click on “Settings” under the W3 Total Cache plugin.
When you’re in the settings section of the plugin, scroll down to “Page Cache” and click on “Enable”. Then, select “Save Settings & Purge Caches”.
Step 2: Remove unnecessary plugins
It’s easy to download loads of plugins when you first create your WordPress website. This is especially true for beginners who are exploring new ways to optimize their site.
That said, it’s important you go back and delete any plugins that you no longer use as this will increase website speed by a lot.
Additionally, it’s important you only download high-quality plugins. This is because low-quality ones tend to load a lot of scripts and styles.
They also perform numerous remote requests and can add extra database queries to your pages, thus reducing their speed.
To delete your plugins, go to “Plugins” followed by “Installed Plugins” on your WordPress dashboard. Then, click on “Delete” below the plugins that you no longer need.
If you’d like to delete an active plugin, you’ll have to click on “Deactivate”. Once deactivated, you can click on “Delete”.
Step 3: Edit your images
Images are the heaviest part of most WordPress websites. They take up a lot of space and can, therefore, significantly slow down your site. This is particularly true if you run a photography website, for example.
Luckily, there are various image optimization plugins you can use to compress your images without jeopardizing their quality. To optimize my media content, I use Smush Image Compression and Optimization.
You can download this plugin by clicking on “Plugins” followed by “Add New”. Then, type “Smush” into your search bar and click on “Install”.
Once the installation is complete, click on “Activate”.
Then, click on “Smush” on your dashboard. There, a pop up will appear, allowing you to decide whether to “Automatically smush images on upload”, or to leave 'Smushing' as a manual process. Once decided, click on “Get Started”.
Next, scroll down to Image Resizing, enable “Resize my full-size images”, and choose a maximum width and height for your images. Then, enable ”Detect and show incorrectly sized images” followed by “Update Settings” to save your changes.
Step 4: Limit social sharing buttons on your website
While you may feel that adding social media sharing buttons to every page and post on your website will increase traffic, it could actually do the exact opposite.
In fact, there have been reports that social media site outages can hugely impact the speed of your website if you have installed share buttons. Because social media platforms have such a large footprint across the web, their performance can directly impact your website’s loading time.
With the above in mind, you should reduce the number of social sharing buttons you have on your site. You can also configure them so that they don’t load concurrently, however, this will require a level of coding knowledge.
Step 5: Use a content delivery network (CDN)
The speed of your website will depend largely on the location of the server hosting it. For example, if a website is hosted on a US server, visitors from that location or those using a VPN server in the US will experience faster loading times.
A CDN has various servers located across the world. The system, therefore, delivers web content to end users according to their individual locations. Because a CDN hosts static files of your website, it can deliver them more quickly and efficiently.
The main drawback of CDNs is that they can be quite expensive. That said, I recommend you create a free account with Cloudflare by heading over to the website and clicking on “Sign Up”.
Then, enter your email address and a password of your choice.
On the next page, enter your domain name and click on “Add Site”. Alternatively, you can enter more than one domain if you have multiple websites you’d like to speed up.
Once you’ve read through the following page, click “Next” to choose your plan. While you can pay for a plan, the free account is generous and comes with a global CDN. When you’ve selected your plan, click on “Confirm Plan”. Then, click on “Confirm” on the following popup.
Step 6: Keep everything up-to-date
WordPress is updated regularly. These new versions of the software come with improvements and optimizations that can speed up your website. They also make your website more secure.
There are various ways you can check which version of WordPress you’re using. That said, the easiest method is to click on “Dashboard” followed by “Updates”. The version you’re using will appear at the top of the page, as well as at the very bottom of your WordPress page.
Furthermore, you can check whether or not other aspects of your site need updating from this page. Aside from telling you whether the version of your theme and your translations are the most recent, you can also see if individual plugins need updating.
When updating plugins, simply tick the box next to the plugins you’d like to upgrade. Then, click on “Update Plugins”. Alternatively, if you’d like to update all of your plugins in one go, tick the box next to “Select All” followed by “Update Plugins”.
Additional steps on how to speed up WordPress sites
Before undertaking any of the steps above, it’s important you check the current speed of your site. Then, you can check it again once you’ve made the necessary alterations. To do this, follow these steps:
- Navigate to Google PageSpeed Insights
- Type in your website URL
- Wait for the tool to complete a full analysis
- Run through the PageSpeed analysis
- Make the necessary alterations to improve your website’s overall speed
What I like most about PageSpeed Insights is that it gives you a detailed breakdown of the parts of your website that need improving. It also tells you exactly how much faster your site will be once you make these improvements!
And finally, if doing all of this doesn't really work - it may be the fault of your hosting provider. Response time is one of the most important metrics when it comes to website hosting performance. And while the best hosting providers clock response times of 200 ms (the time of a blink!) and under, some of them take more than a second to respond.
So if you're really serious about making your website fast, you can also check out our post about the fastest web hosting providers. Maybe that's exactly what you're missing.
And putting all those things together should turn your WordPress website into a certified speed demon. So make your website fly!
Do you have more tips on how to speed up a website? If so, share them in the comments below.